Hearts debrief: Stephen Humphrys looking a solid addition, the absence of Craig Halkett, a no-win situation for Robbie Neilson
A look back at Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Rangers at Tynecastle.
Player of the match
While the game was still in the balance Stephen Humphrys impressed on the right wing. He linked well, had some driving runs and forced Allan McGregor into a (admittedly routine) first-half save. When the attacker joined on transfer deadline day there was an air of desperation about the deal after Liam Boyce’s injury, but since having a debut to forget against Livingston, where he clearly wasn’t fit, he’s looked like another solid addition in the transfer market.
Let’s change this one up a little bit and go for something which happened before the game. Craig Halkett had been rated as “touch and go” beforehand, and as soon as it became clear he wasn’t going to make this contest it was always going to be a struggle. A pairing of Lewis Neilson and Stephen Kingsley at centre-back was never going to be a match for the league’s leading goalscorer in Antonio Colak, who scored twice. The centre-back’s return can’t come soon enough with many big games on the horizon.
The Hearts fans were incandescent when Steven McLean produced the red card for, what at first, looked like merely an aggressive barge in the back from Cammy Devlin. However, replays showed the Australian stamped down on Rabbi Matondo’s ankle and it was therefore the correct decision.
Benefit of hindsight
There were few complaints about the team beforehand and not any particular complaints about the management staff in the wake of the loss. Hearts were let down by a makeshift defence and rash challenge from Devlin.
Perhaps it was too attacking a line-up. You want Hearts to be going toe-to-toe with the Old Firm at Tynecastle and show no fear, and it was clear Neilson did that by including both Humphrys and Lawrence Shankland from the start, but given the issues at centre-back maybe a return to the three-at-the-back to shore things up a bit would have been an exercise in justified pragmatism. Had Neilson done so, and the same result occurred, however, he would’ve been lambasted by the fans. It felt like a no-win situation. Especially once Joel Sked backed them on A View From The Terrace.